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Date: May 16, 2005


Members of the Stó:lő Nation are inviting University of Victoria graduate students into their homes and into their culture as part of a unique ethnohistory field school being held this month in Chilliwack.

Ethnohistory combines the research of historical documents with oral history. The students will research topics suggested by the Stó:lő, such as the impact of disease on Stó:lő society and culture, the history and biographies of elders, and the history of Coqualeetza, the former residential school that now houses the Stó:lő Nation administration and cultural centre.

“We’ve been invited by the Stó:lő Nation to do a number of history projects that they’ve identified as key for their community,” says UVic historian John Lutz, who is co-teaching the class with Keith Carlson, a University of Saskatchewan historian, until May 27. Lutz says theirs is the only ethnohistory field school in Canada.

The class, made up of four history students from UVic and six from the University of Saskatchewan, will live with Stó:lő families for a week before moving into a longhouse for three weeks. The field school includes a boat trip on the Fraser River to learn how the Stó:lő interpret the river.

“It’s a cultural orientation to the Stó:lő territory,” says Lutz. The word “Stó:lő” means “people of the river,” and some Stó:lő place names refer to things that can only been seen from the river. “The Stó:lő can tell their history as we travel the river,” he says. “The story is in the landscape.”

The Stó:lő chose UVic to do the research because the university has a strong ethnohistory component in its history department. “We’re helping the Stó:lő document a culture that didn’t leave any written records,” says Lutz. This year marks the fourth time Lutz and Carlson have run the field school.

“We recognize the important contributions that academic institutions can provide to us,” says Sonny McHalsie, a treaty director and cultural advisor at the Stó:lő Nation. “It’s an ongoing relationship that we hope to maintain. Knowing our history is a big part of our culture.”

The field school will host a traditional thank-you feast on May 24 to acknowledge the help of the elders and thank the Stó:lő community for their support.
Media contacts:

Media Contacts: Dr. John Lutz (History) at (250) 217-4207 or jlutz@uvic.ca (Will be on-site May 16-18) Sonny McHalsie (Sto:lo Nation) at (604) 858-3366/Cell: (604) 819-3445 or sonny.mchalsie@stolonation.bc.ca Jessica Gillies (UVic Communications) at (250) 472-5667 or ucom1.uvic.ca

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

(image: fern)